When you consider the sheer influence and stature of The Libertines it is rather astounding to consider they achieved this through the release of only two albums and many more controversial headlines. Carl Barât , Pete Doherty and co were partially responsible for the indie boom of the mid-00s which inspired countless artists attempting to achieve the band’s gritty narrative voice and underplayed rock & roll riffs. As many others fell to the wayside, this London quartet were self combusting in fluctuating publicity struggling to cope with issues and problems ironically raised on ‘Up the Bracket’ and the eponymous followup. At the very darkest, it would seem the group were never going to reform following their final shows and most were surprised in 2010 to see both Doherty and Barat climb atop the stage and above all perform well.
Five years later and there is a sense of an echo as The Libertines rise from their sub-headline spot at a spiritual home of Reading & Leeds Festival to top an almighty bill armed with a new collection of songs. Although ‘Anthems for Doomed Youth’ was only called upon briefly during the show, it demonstrated a unity that fans of this uncertain and erratic band desperately needed. This album seems to finally conclude the trilogy through reflection and thought on their turbulent past and the scenes they were so readily caught up with during the recording of the first two albums. The members now have families and changed commitments and perspectives yet Pete is rather frank throughout with cutting lines including ‘you’ll never fumigate the demons’ on his ode to a lover and London, every man’s ballad ‘You’re My Waterloo’.
‘Belly of The Beast’ is a classic piece of Libertines with a near-country guitar and percussion running beneath its structure as Pete lazily narrates over the top, the cigarette balancing on his lip almost audible as this lacklustre delivery distracts from the deeply personal insight into Doherty’s experience with therapists and mental health following his addictions. ‘Barbarians’ is awash of surf rock style instrumentals reminiscent of the Beach Boys paired with Paul Weller-esque delivery resulting in effortlessly cool without losing any of that characterful slacker-style droning. Enthusing about the urges to go out with a crowd of party revellers has never sounded so unconvincing yet utterly anthemic at once. ‘Fame & Fortune’ offers a Soviet circus melody detailing the trials and tribulations of first setting out on the North and East London scene and the easy ways to be lead from the path of righteousness. Perhaps this is a little indulgent self justification? Perhaps Doherty felt the need to attempt to explain himself?
‘Gunga Din’ shines amongst this suburban and grayscale collection of tracks with its tropical beats and overall abandonment of lyrical pressure from both Doherty and Barât as it details their relationship in a succinct three minute operation and includes a classic chorus designed to have thousands of revellers jumping. Either of the band’s two previous albums perhaps deserved the title ‘Anthems for Doomed Youth’ as The Libertines successfully offered a disinterested and uninspired generation a social voice and championed an entire movement in their destructive wake. This record is a well collated selection of tracks and perhaps the youth without former knowledge of Barât and co will truly identify with although for the tried and tested fans it feels more likely to be a returning ceremony and a pathway to a far more sturdy future.